Field Journal: Caddisfly Swarms

There are downsides and upsides to walking the same route with great frequency. Sometimes it can become tedious and feel repetitive, but then there are the times when I get to see things that only happen for a brief time. Yesterday I got to witness something I’d never seen along my walk before, a mass of caddisflies.

I noticed them almost immediately, swarms of small, black insects dancing right on the shoreline over the water. At first I didn’t know what they were, so I went down to the beach and watched them flying around. They were close enough I could reach out and grab them. When I did I found an insect with very long antennae and slender black wings that extended past the abdomen. The eyes were set on the sides of the head, similar to damselflies and they had a…

Continue reading →

Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: The Day of the Dragon

All week long, as I worked outside, I watched teneral dragonflies, those that had just made the transformation from larvae to adult, fly away from my wildlife pond. But I had yet to catch any in the act of emerging. Earlier last week I had agreed to take dragonfly larvae into my daughter’s school to share with the kids. No big deal I thought, I’d go scoop some out of the pond in the afternoon before heading to the school. I had been catching larvae with nearly every scoop of the net as I removed algae over the last couple of weeks, so it should be easy. But when I went out that day, I scooped and scooped and was starting to worry I would have nothing to show the kids. After a good twenty minutes I finally found one. I then changed my scooping methods and…

Continue reading →

Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Sawflies

Being a naturalist often illustrates an interesting phenomenon. When I first learn about something, likes slime molds for example, I suddenly start finding them everywhere. Although it feels like they suddenly started showing up all over, they have, of course, always been there. What’s changed is my observation skills. It’s simply mind-boggling to me how many things I’m sure I still overlook simply because I have not yet noticed, learned or otherwise discovered them.

My backyard presents a more complicated picture though. Because I’ve created habitat where there was once only grass and a deck, new things do arrive regularly. But is the first time I notice them the first time they showed up, or have they been visiting far longer than that? Case and point, this spring I have noticed many different sawflies in my wildlife garden.

Sawflies…

Continue reading →

Field Journal: Late Summer Dragons at Magnuson

A month ago I attended a dragonfly class at Magnuson Park with dragonfly expert, Dennis Paulson. He talked about the dragonfly’s life cycle during the class portion, then we went out to Magnuson Park in Seattle to look at the odes. The season had already begun to fade as many he had seen just a week ago were no longer flying. We did see many blue-eyed darners, cardinal meadowhawks, eight-spotted skimmers, blue dashers and western pondhawks. A single black saddlebag patrolled the pond. There were a few tule bluet and California spreadwing damselflies as well. I spotted one unfortunate blue-eyed darner which had become trapped in the water, only its head was above the surface as it tried to fly out, unsuccessfully. Paulson said that happens sometimes when the males fight, one will become stuck in the water and die. Some of the ponds had dried out, as they…

Continue reading →

Field Journal: Denny Creek

This summer was the third in a row we have gone camping at Denny Creek, located in North Bend, Washington, near Snoqualmie Pass. The first year it was sunny and warm and I saw dragonflies, butterflies and all manner of moths. Last year, it was decidedly less sunny. We arrived during a light rain, and the next day it rained so hard that we drove east of the Cascades to dry out. The final day was finally dry and peaceful but still cool and there were few insects out. 

This year promised to be sunny with only warm weather in the forecast, and it delivered. It was a timely visit because we avoided a particularly hot spell in Seattle while we were in the mountains. This year we camped with two of our daughter’s school friends and their families, and together we all made the trek to the…

Continue reading →

Field Journal: Alki Octopus

The very low tides I enjoyed at Scenic Beach State Park over the weekend continued and I didn’t want to miss out. So on the Monday after returning from Hood Canal, I took my daughter to Alki Beach in Seattle to explore. I had already had some great finds at Alki during the low tides at the end of May and it seems I always find something interesting there. The Seattle Aquarium’s Beach Naturalists were already searching and I was bitterly disappointed to hear from them that a Humpback Whale and swam by not more than a half an hour before we arrived. Fortunately, Alki Beach could never disappoint entirely, and there was much yet to be discovered. 

My daughter and I first searched the long stretch of rocks, but remembering the moon snail I’d found on the outgoing tide last time we turned towards…

Continue reading →